Saturday, March 3, 2012

Super Simple Cherry Cobbler

I know, I know.  Weeks without a blog entry, and when I return to blogging it’s with another recipe for dessert.  I can only say that my work life has exploded in the last two weeks and, combined with the cold that’s been making its rounds at our house, blogging was pushed to the bottom of the priority list.  But no more!  Another produce adventure is in the works.  For now, though, let’s celebrate the triumphant return of the Foodie with a really easy recipe that will make the after-dinner hour special:  this Super Simple Cherry Cobbler.

Let me say right up front that I am not a fan of canned cherry pie filling.  It’s too sweet, too gloopy, too artificially-glowing-red.  This recipe calls for either fresh or frozen (and thawed) cherries.  Frozen cherries come with the pits removed, which is (partially) where the Super Simple portion of the title comes in.  If you want to use fresh cherries–which won’t be in season for awhile, but might still be available at your local grocery store–I highly recommend using this Oxo Cherry Pitter to make that job easier.  I love my cherry pitter, and I use it often during cherry season.  But when it comes to Super Simple baking, I take it to another level and go with the frozen cherries.

The second part of this Super Simple recipe is the use of a packaged cake mix.  Especially since I started eating gluten-free, I’ve relied on packaged mixes to make my life a little easier.  Baking gluten-free from scratch can be tricky, and while I’m gradually learning the things I need to know, there are times when I’m not in the mood to roll the dice.  Sometimes, I just want the assurance of knowing that what I’m making is more than likely to turn out.  When you have a cold, and you’re losing your mind at work every day, you find yourself in the midst of one of those times.  So I used a gluten-free vanilla cake mix, but you could just as easily use any cake mix you have on hand.

One thing to note:  when you add the melted butter to the cake mix, you will end up with a crumbly topping–nothing like cake batter.  If you’re of the opinion that cobbler should be more like upside-down cake, you probably won’t be happy with the result provided by this recipe.  On the other hand, if you like cobbler with a crunchy topping, this will make you very happy.

The Hubs has been happily snacking on this cobbler for the last few days.  It would be just as Super Simple to make with any combination of fruit and cake mix–I’m thinking an apple cobbler with a spice cake crumble on top would be very tasty.  And if you want to toss a half-cup of chopped nuts into the crumble topping for a little extra crunch, you’ll get nothing but support from me.

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Super Simple Cherry Cobbler

Ingredients:

1 lb. cherries, pitted (thawed, if frozen)
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
4 T. corn starch
1 T. vanilla
1 vanilla cake mix, dry
1 stick butter, melted

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large saucepan, combine the cherries and water over medium heat. Stir together the sugar and corn starch, then add this mixture to the pan and stir until dissolved. When the cherry mixture starts to bubble, stir constantly for one minute, then remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla. The mixture should be very thick, the consistency of pie filling. (If it's not, let it cook until you get the right consistency.) Transfer the cherry mixture to a baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray. (I use a 9-inch pie plate, but a 9-inch square pan will also work.)

In a large bowl, combine the dry cake mix and the melted butter. Stir until the dry ingredients have been coated with butter and turn into coarse crumbs. (You made need to use your hands for this step--just squeeze together handfuls of the dry ingredients, creating large clumps, and then break them into smaller pieces.) Sprinkle the dry crumb mixture over the cooked fruit.

Bake the cobbler for 35-40 minutes, until the crumb topping is nicely browned and the fruit is beginning to bubble around the edges. Serve warm, with ice cream or whipped cream.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Gluten-Free Coconut Lemon Bars . . . and a Giveaway! {Winner Announced}

As I think we’ve already established, I have a serious addiction to lemons.  (Take a look at the header for my blog.  See that luscious lemon hanging from its branch?  It’s no accident that a lemon is the first thing you see when you look at my blog.)  Especially this time of year, when the rain and gloom descends even as far as south Texas, lemons are nothing short of a blessing.  They’re bright and cheerful.  They’re like edible drops of sunshine.  And they smell good.  Plus, they’re full of Vitamin C, and you can’t have too much of that stuff during cold and flu season.

So, while lemons are typically thought of as a summer thing, making lemon bars in the middle of February doesn’t strike me as the least bit strange.  In fact, it seems entirely fitting.  When the fine folks at Bob’s Red Mill contacted me a few weeks ago and asked if I’d be interested in trying out their coconut flour, the very first thing that came to my mind was a version of lemon bars that incorporated coconut flour into the crust.  I’d never baked with coconut flour before, so I knew I’d need to experiment a little to get it right.

And did I ever experiment.  The Girl and The Hubs have been eating coconut lemon bars for the last two weeks.

No one is complaining, mind you.

A few things I’ve learned about coconut flour:  it’s very absorbent, which means you need to increase the amount of liquid in a recipe by the same amount of coconut flour you’ve incorporated.   (So, for example:  if you use 1/4 cup of coconut flour in place of wheat flour, add 1/4 cup of liquid to your recipe.)  The first batch of lemon bars I made turned out more like lemon cake for precisely this reason:  the crust soaked up all the lemon custard.   Baked goods made with coconut flour also bake faster, which means you can shorten your baking time by a few minutes (or, at the very least, start checking them earlier–another lesson learned the hard way.  Pun most certainly intended.)  Coconut flour is very high in fiber, which means you can feel good about having a treat that’s actually good for you–but it also means you should be careful about pigging out.  Otherwise, your stomach may have a little something to say about that.  Finally, and best of all, coconut flour is gluten-free.

What I really like about this recipe is that the crust tastes a little like a shortbread cookie, thanks to the addition of almond meal.  It’s firm, but not crunchy, and it’s a nice contrast to the gooey topping.  I don’t really taste the coconut in coconut flour, although some people say they do–it’s made from finely ground coconut with the moisture and fat removed, so it smells the way you’d expect, but I found the taste pretty mild.  That’s why I added flaked coconut to the crust.  I tried toasting the coconut first, but I think drying it out encouraged the coconut to absorb more of the lemon custard, and the coconut flour was already doing that job quite effectively.  The addition of untoasted coconut provided a nice flavor and a slightly chewy texture.  I added more coconut to the top, as well, but if you’re not as coconut crazy as I am, you could always go the traditional route and add a sprinkle of powdered sugar instead (after the bars have cooled, of course.)

But here’s the best part!  The folks at Bob’s Red Mill would like to give one of you the chance to try out their products as well–coconut flour, granola, brownie mix, whatever tickles your tastebuds–and they have generously provided me with a $50 gift card for one lucky reader.  I don’t usually do giveaways, but I really love this company and the way they do business.  Plus, I’ve never tried a Bob’s Red Mill product that I didn’t like.

How do you enter?

1.  Head over to the Bob’s Red Mill website and take a look around.  Then add a comment to this blog telling me one of the items you’d like to buy with that $50 gift card.

2.  Click on over to Facebook and “Like” The Family Foodie.  Then leave a comment below telling me you did this.  (If you’re already one of the Foodie faithful, just leave me a message that says so.)

That’s right, I’m giving you two chances to win.  That’s how much I love you.  Just be sure to leave two separate comments.

This giveaway will end at midnight CST on Feburary 29th, 2o12.  I’ll use Random.org to select one lucky commenter.  If you don’t see your comment on the blog right away, it’s because you’re new to The Family Foodie and your comment is awaiting moderation.

Good luck!

And the winner is:  Jordan D. (#10)!  Congratulations, Jordan.  Please use the Contact form on this website (see the link at the top of this page) to send me an email with your mailing address.  Claim your prize within 48 hours and get ready to start shopping!  

This is a sponsored blog post and giveaway.  I received product from Bob’s Red Mill to use in developing the recipe below, and a $50 gift card to share with one reader of The Family Foodie, but I did not receive additional compensation.  All the gushing about Bob’s Red Mill products is my own unsolicited and humble opinion.

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Gluten-Free Coconut Lemon Bars

Ingredients:

Crust
1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup Bob's Red Mill Coconut Flour
1/4 cup Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
6 T. unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Lemon Custard
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
Juice of 3 large lemons, plus enough water (if necessary) to equal 2/3 cup liquid
1 T. (packed) lemon zest
1 tsp. Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut for topping (optional)

Directions:

For the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 x 8 inch square pan with foil, leaving enough overhang to use as a handle. Lightly coat the foil with non-stick spray. In a large bowl, combine the flours, almond meal, sugar, salt, and flaked coconut; stir to combine dry ingredients. Use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut in the cubed butter, working the mixture until the butter has been reduced to pea-size crumbs. Use your hand to knead the butter into the dry mixture. When all dry ingredients have been incorporated, press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes, until the crust is just beginning to brown around the edges.

For the custard: While the crust bakes, whisk together the sugar, eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest, flour, and baking powder. Remove the hot crust from the oven and pour the custard over the top immediately; return the pan to the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup coconut over the custard; bake for another 8 to 10 minutes, just until the lemon topping is set at the center. (If you aren't using the coconut topping, just bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the lemon custard is set at the center.)

Transfer the pan to a rack and let the lemon bars cool completely. Use the foil to move the bars to a work surface when you're ready to cut them. (If you're topping them with powdered sugar, now is the time.)

Assuming you have any left over, these bars can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days.

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Adventures in Produce: The Asian Pear

I actually had some trouble with the Adventures in Produce project this week:  as I browsed the selection of fruits and vegetables, I was hard pressed to find something I hadn’t tried before.  This might have something to do with the fact that it’s February–i.e., not the height ofresh produce season–but I was still pretty impressed by the breadth of my produce experience.  I almost decided to buy a few pitiful looking guavas, but at the last minute I had another thought.  Instead of something completely new, why not try a new version of an old favorite?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: the Asian pear.

I’d noticed these pears before, mostly because they sit on their shelf in the produce section wearing these odd little woven-plastic shields that no other produce item is sporting.  I’m not sure why this is, because these pears are very firm to the touch.  It doesn’t seem like they’d bruise easily or need extra protection.  In fact, at first I thought the pear I’d bought wasn’t ripe enough to eat yet, given how rock-solid it felt.   A little research revealed that these pears are more like apples:  they’re picked ripe, unlike Bartlett pears, and don’t need time to ripen off the tree.   (If they’re soft, they’re beginning to spoil.)  Asian pears are round like apples, too, rather than the distinctive pear shape. Their brown skin is slightly thicker and more sturdy, though edible.  Online discussion boards revealed a serious disagreement as to whether Asian pears should be peeled before eating.  I like to eat fruit with the skin intact whenever I can, but I have to admit that I liked this pear better without it.

In terms of flavor, Asian pears are very sweet.  They have the texture of a juicy apple (something like a Gala), though they definitely taste like pears.  The Boy is our resident pear connoisseur, and after taking a bite he pronounced it “as good as any other pear I’ve had.”  The Hubs and I really liked this and each ate a half on our own, cut into slices.  I typically buy Bartlett pears when they’re relatively green because I prefer their firmer texture to the mushy consistency of a ripe pear.  The problem with that approach is, green pears aren’t particularly juicy.  In fact, they’re pretty darn dry.  The Asian pear is a nice compromise on both of those points: crisp but full of moisture, without the unappetizing squishy pulp of a yellow pear.

Overall, this one was a hit.  I loved the flavor all by itself, but I think this would be a really good addition to a big green salad, maybe with some crunchy almonds and creamy goat cheese.   The very thought of this combination is making me hungry right now.

 

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken and Vegetables

Photo Credit: WordRidden

I love my slow cooker.   I didn’t own one for years–probably because it seemed a little old-fashioned, and probably because I’m not great at planning ahead for meals (which the slow cooker pretty much requires)–but I’ve been making up for lost time by using mine at least once a week for the last few months.  Up until now I’ve used the slow cooker primarily for soups and stews, along with the occasional brisket.  Then, a few days ago, I came across a recipe for Moroccan Chicken and Vegetables.  Not chicken and vegetable soup, but chicken, and vegetables.  I really love Moroccan spices (like the combination in this recipe for Moroccan Beef Stew), so I decided to give it a try–with a few Foodie modifications, of course.

Although I usually cook with chicken breast, I decided to use chicken thighs in this recipe–dark meat has more moisture than white, and moisture is always a plus when you’re cooking low and slow.  I bought bone-in chicken thighs with skin, because they’re the cheapest option, and just pulled the skin off before seasoning them.  (Don’t worry, it’s easy.)  Once the chicken is cooked, it falls right off the bone with minimal effort.  Even the Foodie children, who are bone-averse when it comes to meat, didn’t seem to mind too much.

What makes this recipe really easy is that the seasoning eases its way into the vegetables via the chicken, no stirring required.  Layer in the vegetables, add the chicken to the top of the pot, and you’re done.  Four hours later, magically, dinner is served–but not before your house begins to smell like a spice-scented wonderland of food.  I made a pot of rice to eat as a side dish and used the vegetable mixture as a sauce.  You could make couscous instead–the more traditional Moroccan choice–but rice allowed me to keep dinner gluten-free.

The Boy wasn’t so sure about this recipe, although he admitted that it smelled pretty good.  And he did eat everything on his plate, even if it wasn’t his most favorite thing.   The Girl suggested that it could be a little less sweet and a little more savory, so I might cut back on the dried apricots the next time I make this.  And there will be a next time, because The Hubs and I were wild about this stuff.

Even if you, like The Boy, aren’t so sure about this combination of flavors, give it a try.  The prep time is minimal, and your house will smell amazing.  That in itself makes this recipe worth a shot.

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Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken and Vegetables

Ingredients:

2 cups diced butternut squash
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped into small pieces
1 cup chicken broth
2 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
2 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed

Directions:

In a large slow cooker, layer in the squash, tomatoes, onion, garlic, chickpeas, and apricots. Pour the chicken broth over everything.

Combine the coriander, cumin, sea salt, and paprika n a large, shallow bowl. Press both sides of the chicken thighs into the spice mixture, making sure the spices stick to the chicken. Set the chicken on top of the vegetable mixture.

Cover and cook for 4 hours on the high setting or 6 to 8 hours on the low setting. Serve with rice or couscous, using the vegetable mixture as a sauce.

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Further Adventures in Produce: Jicama

When I made this week’s trip to the produce section, I decided to scout out a vegetable adventure.  (After two weeks of fruit, it seemed only fair.)  Little did I know, when I picked up this week’s candidate, that I’d chosen a sweet vegetable sometimes used in fruit salads:  jicama.

As you can see from the photo, jicama is an odd-looking tuber:  pointy, rough-skinned, slightly hairy.  The Hubs was pretty certain we’d tried it before, but I have no memory of this–which, I confess, doesn’t mean much of anything these days.  A little research prepared us for something that tasted like a cross between a potato and an apple.  But, while jicama looks like a potato, the taste and texture really don’t compare at all.

Before you taste it, of course, you have to peel it.  The rough outer skin of the jicama was a little too much for my potato peeler; however, I quickly determined that using a paring knife to lift up a piece of the skin made it possible to pull off large swatches with ease.  Underneath the outer skin is a tough, fibrous layer that’s easily removed with the aforementioned potato peeler.  This sounds complicated, I know, but it took me less than three minutes to peel the jicama.

We tried the jicama raw, first, after reading this suggestion.  It’s surprisingly easy to chop into matchsticks, since jicama is jucier than you might imagine it would be (given that it looks so much like a hard, dry potato.)  I recognized its flavor immediately, though I couldn’t place it at first; it took me a few minutes to realize that it reminded me of the flavor of sugar snap peas.  The Boy gave it a taste and said “It’s just neutral.  Not sweet, not bitter, not good, not bad.”  The Hubs gave it a taste and wrinkled his nose–which, to his credit, doesn’t happen very often.  The Girl, who had heard none of this, took a taste at my prompting and said, “It tastes like lettuce.”   I told her my impression, and she nodded.  “You’re right.  It tastes exactly like those pea pods.”

I think raw jicama would work for us in a green salad, primarily as a crunchy texture–I liked it well enough raw, on its own, but I was clearly the only one.  It might also work as a firm texture in fruit salads, as one webpage suggested, in place of apples.

I decided to try the jicama in a stir-fry, since the family wasn’t crazy about it in raw form.  I chopped up some baby carrots and a little onion,  then tossed the carrots and onions with some olive oil–just enough to coat them.  That mixture went into a hot saute pan, where it stayed until the carrots started to soften up.  Then I added the diced jicama, a splash of soy sauce and a sprinkle of garlic powder.  This concoction was more to the family’s liking–The Girl said the jicama suddenly tasted just like a potato, and The Hubs really liked the combination of sweet carrots, salty soy sauce and crunchy, juicy jicama.  I was pleased to discover that jicama doesn’t change texture after cooking.  You could easily substitute it in any Asian recipe that calls for water chestnuts.

The final verdict:  jicama is squarely in the “maybe” category on my shopping list.  No one objected to it, but no one seemed particularly excited about it, either.  If I’m planning a stir-fry, it would be an easy ingredient to include; if I’m making a big green salad for a social gathering, I might chop some jicama and toss it in as a novelty.  The sweet flavor would be a good compliment to a tart lemon vinaigrette dressing–and since jicama is also a good source of Vitamin C, it’s a healthy addition to salads.  The jicama I bought this week cost just over a dollar, which means it won’t be a big indulgence if I decide to try it again.

 

 

 

 

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